Lots of stuff happened in Wednesday night’s confusing midseason finale of Vikings. We end the first half of Season 6 on a down note after a weirdly disjointed battle between the massive Rus army and the disappointingly feeble viking forces attempting to repel them.
Or was it all just a dream?
It’s hard to say, honestly. The battle scene was incredibly hard to follow. Not only did it take place across multiple locations, at times out of chronological order, it was interspersed with Ivar’s planning and an intimate conversation on the beach between Ivar and Bjorn.
At one point the Rus are attacking via ships and we hear of Ivar’s plan to transport troops in barges that can brave the shallow waters close to shore. At another point, the Rus are climbing the sheer cliffs on the cities unsuspecting flank. Ivar appears to be with both groups at different times.
The entire segment between Bjorn and Ivar is otherworldly. They never had any real chance to meet before the battle. It might be a flashback, but I don’t think so. Like the ending—when Ivar stabs Bjorn through the side, apparently killing him—none of this feels real. Which is, I suppose, an attempt at poetry of some kind but just ended up irksome and confounding.
The battle itself is yet another rushed clash of arms. How many of these huge, epic battles does this show really need? Setting aside the lack of historical record of any such clash between Rus and viking, the invasion and defense all still feel enormously rushed. And once again, the enemy of Bjorn is wildly over-powered. It seems that no matter how strong the vikings are, how famous Bjorn is, how successful their exploits, there is always someone stronger and tougher and more ambitious. Vikings feels like it’s stuck in a spiral, or a loop, repeating endlessly.
Elsewhere in the episode, Gunnhild loses her and Bjorn’s child and we see her grieve as she buries the infant boy. It seems Bjorn is destined to simply lose everything, as this show keeps kicking him while he’s down. His crown, his mother, two sons (and effectively his daughter who has left with Ubbe and Torvi for Iceland). Now—possibly—his life. Gunnhild herself is wounded badly in the battle, though she gets to punch that smug bastard, Oleg, before swimming away to safety.
Bjorn’s other wife, Ingrid, is pursued by Harald who wants to make her queen of all Norway. Mostly he just wants to take something from Bjorn, and take he does, raping her on the eve of the battle and removing whatever remaining sympathy we might have felt for him. Later Ingrid runs to Olaf who consoles her, though it might have been his advice that spurred Harald to the act, however unwittingly.
Later, when we see Harald dying on the beach and Erik takes his crown and runs off, we feel nothing but scorn. He was a bad man who betrayed his allies, killed his brother and raped women. Hopefully his death sticks, even if Bjorn’s is just a dream sequence.
- I don’t understand Katya’s part in this at all. She seduces Ivar and then tells him she’s in league with Oleg’s brother Dir, who Ivar helped save. But why? She has seemed, up to this point, fully enamored with Oleg. Why go for Ivar? Is it a trick? I’m not sure I even care at this point.
- I’m tired of these huge battles. I miss shield walls and more intimate conflicts. The Rus are just the new faceless bogeymen come to test our heroes. It’s just not an interesting struggle. It feels artificial somehow.
- I’m even more tired of the brother vs brother story. Didn’t we spend all last season doing this already? Ivar vs Bjorn. Hvitserk waffling between sides. At least Ubbe got out while the getting was good. A much more interesting story of these brothers could have been told. Perhaps if they didn’t clash until the end it would have been more interesting. The relationship between Rollo and Ragnar was always more compelling. C’est la vie.
- I really don’t buy Ivar being the one to kill Bjorn. Bjorn is supposed to be this invincible warrior but a cripple can take him off guard and slay him in one stroke?
- Also maybe Gunnhild shouldn’t have been fighting so soon after a miscarriage.
So that’s the end of the first half of Season 6. Very melodramatic. A completely unnecessary rape scene. A very confusing outcome that may or may not mean Bjorn is dead. And I guess the Rus have won and Oleg of Kiev is the king of all Norway? What about Sweden?
I did enjoy much of this season (so far) much more than the last, but I’m left feeling cold by the end. I don’t care enough about any of these unlikable characters. Ivar has finally become more interesting but I have no idea what his game is or even if the game is worth watching.
At least there are only ten episodes left. Whatever happens will happen. The vikings seem to be utterly defeated, though, so that should make for an interesting twist on history.
“The gods abandoned you a long time ago, my brother,” Ivar says to Bjorn. “There’s no way you can win. Believe me. No way you can win.”